Monday, December 3, 2012

Rant #856: Monkees Business

I have always absolutely loved the Monkees.

I loved the concept from the get go in 1966, I loved the music, and yes, I loved, as performers, the four guys who made up the project/band/group/experiment, whatever you want to call it.

And on Saturday night, my family actually went to see the three remaining Monkees in what was probably the next to last time the name "Monkees" will ever be used in a concert format.

The surviving Monkees--Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork, and yes, Michael Nesmith--decided to tour after the February 29 death of fellow bandmate Davy Jones, and they scheduled a very brief 14-date tour across the country.

They finally got to Long Island on Saturday night, playing in The Paramount, a relatively new concert venue. The old place--which started life as a vaudeville house and became one of my favorite haunts in my early 20s as a laser light show venue--shined brightly on this night, showcasing the surviving Monkees in a no holds barred celebration of their accomplishments, and those of Jones.

The spotlight was on Nesmith--who has rarely toured or seemed to care about the Monkees since he left them for good in 1969--during most of the night. Showcasing the songs that he wrote for himself and the other Monkees, Nesmith was fully in gear during this show, and I must say, he was really good.

His vocals haven't changed much over the years, and when he sang a song like "You Told Me," or "Tapicoa Tundra," you could just shut your eyes and really think that you were listening to him on the old records from the 1960s.

And contrary to what I've read, his guitar playing seemed to be intact. Maybe as the tour made its way north, he got more comfortable at what he was doing, but whatever the case, I didn't hear the slips he supposedly made early on.

Dolenz is Dolenz. He has been singing these songs for nearly 50 years, and I have never seen him where he holds back on these classic tunes. Each one he sings like he never sung it before. You can tell that he really cherishes this music, and this legacy. His vocals are still smooth as silk, as he possesses one of the great rock voices. "I'm a Believer," "Randy Scouse Git," whatever the song, those tunes are his. He owns them.

And while he played some guitar during the show, he mainly played drums and any percussion instrument he could find, and he was more than adequate.

Peter Tork is the oldest Monkee, and the one who has probably had the most interesting life--not necessarily career--after the Monkees of the foursome. Whether teaching, in jail, battling cancer, or just singing the blues, Tork has certainly lived the life. And his voice, never his best instrument, shows the ravages of those past times. But for a 70 year old, he is still spry. While he had the spotlight on just a couple of songs as the lead singer--"Auntie Grizelda" and "Long Title: Do I Have To Do This All Over Again" were two of them--he really showed his prowess in other ways.

As a musician, Tork was never given much credit back in the day, but he really can play multiple instruments, and he showed his talents by playing guitar, keyboards, banjo and several others during the show. And let me say, he is really, really good.

Now to Jones. His life and his contributions to the Monkees legacy were fully acknowledged during this concert. The trio took breaks during the show by showing videos of his most popular Monkees songs, and only one Jones song, "Early Morning Blues and Greens," was sung by the trio--Peter at the lead--during the concert.

How do you perform "Daydream Believer" without Davy? According the Dolenz, they took the suggestion of Nesmith and let the audience perform the song. Taking one audience member up on stage with them--was she a ringer?--Dolenz sung the tune with her and with the audience.

It was a perfect tribute to Jones, a nice farewell to their bandmate.

The place was sold out for months, the fans were really into this music and the trio, and I absolutely loved the show.

The backing band and vocalists--including Nesmith's son, Christian, and Dolenz's sister, Coco--was top notch. Many had been with one form or other of the Monkees during the past 25 years, some were new to the "family."

There is really no Monkees, per se, without Jones, so the feeling is that this will be it for the use of the Monkees name in concert. In fact, the show's program had ads for Nesmith, Tork and Dolenz's latest non-Monkees projects.

Yes, the trio probably will move on after last night's show, the last show of the tour, at the Beacon in New York. They will still perform as solo artists, but that will probably be it for them as the Monkees.

I have heard rumors that a DVD will be coming out of the tour, and I know there was filming being done on Saturday night.

Between all the pictures I took myself, and the video I also took from the rafters, and this supposed release. I will have a real keepsake of this tour, the final tour of the Monkees.

And yes, I bought a "Head" T-shirt.

And I will wear it proudly, probably wear it out from use.

And my wife loved the show, as did my son. In the midst of his love of rap, he loved the performance, only disappointed that his favorite Monkees tune, "Cuddy Toy," was not either performed or shown on the video monitors.

I guess you can't have everything, but at least my 17 year old "gets" the Monkees ... another generation embraces these guys.

However, I feel the Monkees are my band, made for MY generation, and I am not ashamed to say that.

Never have, never will.

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